If you’re a frequent Delta flyer, odds are you’ve got a co-branded Delta credit card in your wallet. And while the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is a popular choice, two cards with higher fees are worth considering for one big reason: an annual Delta companion ticket.
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card gets you an annual companion certificate to use on economy fares within the continental U.S. The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card comes with a companion certificate that also works for first class tickets.
Think of your Delta companion ticket as your once-a-year, buy-one-get-one-free plane ticket benefit. You’ll get this perk after your first full year with either card. And after a handful of extensions throughout the pandemic, many Delta flyers have not just one but two (or even three) certificates to use up.
Play it right, and you can get far more value than the cards’ annual fees out of this great benefit. Here’s how.
How the Delta Companion Ticket Works
You won’t get your companion ticket right off the bat – it starts once you’ve held either the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card for a year.
On your first card renewal period with the Platinum Card, you’ll get this companion certificate good for one main cabin, round-trip fare in the continental U.S. But if you hold the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, the companion ticket you receive can also be used for domestic first-class airfare.
Once that time comes, you’ll get an email from American Express informing you that the certificate is now available. Log in at Delta.com, and you’ll find it’s been automatically placed in your Delta profile wallet under “Certificates, eCredits & Vouchers”
Already have a Delta companion certificate? Delta has extended many of them due to the pandemic!
Clicking on the certificate in your profile will allow you to begin the booking and redemption process. No need to designate your travel companion ahead of time!
But there is an important restriction to keep in mind when using this great perk.
The companion certificate issued from the Delta Platinum Card only works for fare classes L, U, T, X, and V in the main cabin. That means basic economy fares are off-limits, as are some of the cheapest-priced economy fares.
If you hold the Delta Reserve Card, you’ll also have access to fare classes I, Z, and W, which are first class, and Delta Comfort Plus fare classes.
Depending on where you live and when you’re flying, these restrictions can make it more difficult to get a lot out of the companion pass.
Feeling lost? Read up on how fare classes work.
Once you’ve found it, make sure your companion certificate applies, and voila – a nearly free plane ticket! You’ll pay just the government-imposed taxes and fees in addition to the price of the first fare. The final amount will vary based on your destination.
The paid fare will earn SkyMiles and Delta Medallion Status credits, but the free fare will not. If you’ve got Delta Medallion status, both of you will be eligible for complimentary upgrades.
And remember: These Delta companion tickets are a use-it-or-lose-it benefit! Pay close attention to the expiration date on your certificate, and be sure to use it beforehand. It’s not enough to book before it expires – you have to actually take the trip before it lapses. Fortunately, you’ve got some time: Delta has extended most of these certificates all the way until January 2023.
And one final important restriction to keep in mind: You have to charge the first fare (and the taxes and fees of the second) to an American Express card. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the Delta Platinum or Reserve SkyMiles card. However, using a Visa, MasterCard, or any other credit card will not work.
This is all very exciting, but how can you make sure you are maximizing the value of this benefit? Here’s how.
Buy the Most Expensive Ticket You Can!
Start thinking big to make the most out of your Delta companion ticket.
Any round-trip, main cabin (or first class, if you have the Delta Reserve Card) flight within the lower 48 U.S. states will qualify. And some will be better options than others to maximize the value of your certificate.
Cross-country routes and even some short-haul flights consistently tend to be the most expensive. But airfare dips and skyrockets so wildly, that can be hard to predict. Though the pandemic has forced many airlines to throw their pricing playbook out the window.
Here’s the bottom line: Make sure you book a flight that costs $250 (see rates & fees) or more per ticket if you hold the Platinum Card. And if you hold the Reserve card, that number is $550 (see rates & fees). That’s the key to making the annual fee on either the Platinum or Reserve Delta SkyMiles card worth it. Regardless of any other benefits the cards provide, this one can cover the entire cost of your annual fee.
We’ve regularly been able to get $300 or far more in value out of the companion certificate. And that’s before factoring in the value from free checked bags for everyone on the itinerary! You can use the benefit for any travel in the continental U.S. so there are endless redemption options that will maximize the value of the ticket.
Use it When Your Travel is Limited to Specific Dates
We urge travelers to be flexible when making travel plans to score the best deals. But that’s not always possible.
So if you need to be somewhere on a specific date or are booking last-minute, the Delta companion ticket is a great way to offset the potentially higher fare. Holidays and weekends are typically high-traffic times, with higher fares to match.
We suggest starting by setting up a Google Flights Price Alert. It’s one of our favorite features offered by Google Flights and will allow you to track airfare pricing on very specific dates. Once you see a price that you are willing to pay, you can head to Delta’s website to use the companion ticket.
On a recent trip, we used a price alert to track airfare for a very specific date. Once we saw a drop we were comfortable with, we were able to book for $547 total – roughly $273.50 per ticket after taxes and fees.
So while I paid the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card’s $250 annual fee, I got $273.50 in value out of the companion ticket from just this benefit alone. I’d call that a win.
Pair it with an International Fare Deal
Consider using your Delta companion ticket to lower the costs of an international getaway.
We recently featured a great deal on flights to Santiago, Chile (SCL) from a handful of U.S. airports starting at only $324 round-trip through February 2022 through our Thrifty Traveler Premium service.
That’s a fantastic deal – nearly $600 off most flights to Chile. But if your home airport isn’t getting those cheap prices, the cost of getting there on specific days could make the deal look less attractive. Enter the Delta companion certificate.
Using your Delta companion ticket to book positioning flights is a smart move. It means you can book that cheap international ticket from a different city, then use your companion certificate to fly from your hometown to catch that international flight for less.
All About the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card
The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card by American Express is one of several options for Delta cards, but it’s among our favorites. That’s due in large part to this companion certificate, which can easily net you $300 or more in value every single year. You’ll get the benefit after your first full year with the card. But there are other perks to the card, too.
The card earns 3x SkyMiles per dollar spent at both hotels and on Delta purchases. It also earns 2x SkyMiles per dollar spent at both restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. You’ll also get a $100 credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years. Membership in both programs is good for five years.
Long layover on your international journey? The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card can get you into the Delta SkyClub for $39 per person. If you don’t already have a card that includes lounge access, this is a great way to access the Delta SkyClub.
The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card will also get you free checked baggage for anyone on your itinerary. And you’ll never pay pesky foreign transaction fees.
The card does have an annual fee of $250 (see rates & fees), but it can easily be offset with the companion ticket it provides.
Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express.
All About the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card by American Express is the top-tier card in the Delta co-branded credit card portfolio.
That’s due in large part to this companion certificate. Unlike the companion certificate from the Platinum card, it can be used for both Comfort + and domestic first class tickets. You’ll get the benefit after your first full year with the card.
The card earns 3x SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases. You’ll also get a $100 credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years. Membership in both programs is good for five years.
Long layover on your international journey? The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card gets you complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club. You’ll also be able to access Amex’s incredible Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges so long as you book your flight with the Reserve card.
With an annual fee of $550 (see rates & fees), it certainly isn’t for everybody. And critically, we think that unless you are chasing Delta status, you’ll be better served by the non-Delta branded Platinum Card® from American Express.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card.
If you fly with Delta even a few times a year, the $250 annual fee on the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card can pay for itself multiple times over. It’s why we’ve named it one of the best cards for Delta flyers.
But if you are chasing Delta status, want lounge access or simply a more powerful Delta companion certificate, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Expres Card might be worth a look, too.
Either way, squeezing plenty of value out of your Delta companion ticket shouldn’t be too hard.